An Open Letter: Contemplating Divorce? It's Hard!
My Dear Friend,
For weeks now, I've contemplated how exactly to bring this up to you. I mean, how do I say these words to you without coming off as self-righteous and judgemental? I've worried that if I say something I'm sticking my nose where it doesn't belong. Intruding into your personal space. So please, before you excommunicate me and unfriend me on Facebook, please know that these words I'm about to say to you? They're very serious and heartfelt to me, and I'm telling you this because I LOVE YOU.
I can't sit by and watch this train wreck you're about to cause without telling you God's honest truth about what you're about to inflict upon yourself, your kids, and everyone around you!
Image: Lenore Edman via Flickr
It's a train wreck I know all too well because I lived through it myself three years ago; I filed for divorce. It was something I never, ever thought I'd do, and an incredibly gut-wrenching decision after I had tried literally EVERYTHING else and realized that in spite of my honest-to-God best efforts, I'd never matter as much as random women on Craigslist, and to be joined to another in that kind of marriage was a clear violation of my Christian beliefs.
Since that time? It's been a rough path, for sure, but God blessed me far beyond what I could have ever asked for or imagined. God brought me out into a spacious place and blessed me because He delighted in me, to quote a little scripture. I talk about my amazing, incredible, brilliant, answer to prayer, soul mate and best friend husband, who just happens to be built like an Abercrombie and Fitch model, on my blog all the time. We're one of those couples that disgusts all of our Facebook friends with our syrupy, sappy, public displays of affection to each other to each other right there on our Facebook walls. If I had a dollar for all the times we've been told to 'get a room...'
While that's all true, I'm afraid that I've made divorce look like a big shiny, thrilling rainbow ending in a great big super fun pot of gold. I'm afraid of this, because lately it seems like more and more of my friends are thinking it might be a good idea. I can tell because they're musing about what it would be like to send the kids to dad's house every other weekend so they can have a BREAK and some 'me' time, or wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to pick his dirty underwear up off the floor or wake me up with his snoring or ... or...
I'm afraid people are looking at ME and thinking they want to do it too.
I'm here to set the record straight: I don't regret my own divorce for a second, but it's not all you think it's going to be. Divorce rips your life apart. And your kids' lives. And betrays your friends. I lost my job, my car, my church, and some of my friends. And endured so many more levels of hell that you cannot fathom. I've learned to the depths of my soul why the Bible says God hates divorce.
So here's a few things you may not have considered:
- When I filed for divorce, I had been a stay-at-home-mom for nine years. I lost my job. Do you know how hard it is to find a job when you're 37 and haven't worked in nine years?
- My kids grieved. And cried. And asked me hundreds of times, "Why can't you just stay home and volunteer at our school again? Can you please quit your job?" They were crying and BEGGING me to stay home with them as I tried to drop them off at day care, and I knew that I couldn't because I HAD to be at work. Are you prepared for this guilt?
- My little girl had to go to a day care where boys were mean to her. They were punching, spitting mean and nothing happened to the boys. My little girl would cry and cry every single day about having to go there and I couldn't do a thing about it; the best day cares have years-long waiting lists. Are you ok with dropping your kid off there?
- I had to take a job 25 miles away. This meant traveling two hours in the car each day. Two hours with my kids each day. Two rushed, frenzied hours cramming in supper and homework and baths. Chaos and frenzy. That's all I had with my kids for two years. Being 25 miles away, I could no longer go to every school function.... or ANY of them. I couldn't eat lunch with my kids or pick them up from school. If they got sick, it was a long, long drive to get to them.
- You will lose friends. I had a group of women at my church I considered my close friends... until I filed for divorce. Know how many of those women contacted me afterward? One. One of them. NONE of the rest of them bothered. It was one of my more painful losses... on top of everything else, I had to lose them too. Even more hurtful were the friends who took his side. He flushed his family down the toilet, and I lost everything, and still. Can you imagine how some friends will take his side and help him decorate his new house while you're struggling to keep the lights on in yours? Oh, so painful.
- Your husband may steal from you. You think he's above that? It's ALL about the money to most men. Be prepared for your savings account to suddenly disappear, and every other asset you think you have. I was left with $10 in my account and no job and no car and no retirement and no savings. He will have NO qualms about breaking in to YOUR house and taking your red Persian rug, or some tools, or whatever he wants...
- You won't call the cops because of your kids. Why not? Because you don't want your kids to have a dad who gets arrested. So he gets away with it and that stinks.
- You get half the debt. Even the debt you knew nothing about, because it was HIS debt. Doesn't matter... you'll get half. I paid on my ex-husband's legal fees (that he put on my credit card) for a long, long while.
- Your standard of living will plummet. Are you used to a nice house? Nice car? Think hubby will let you keep those? Not a chance. I had to get rid of 2/3 of everything I owned to fit into an apartment. Hubby got my Volvo in the divorce AND his truck. I was left with no car (and no job). Think that sounds fun?
- You and your new husband will have all SORTS of baggage. You have NO idea how often the 'ghost' of an ex-spouse will show up to ruin your new life.
- If your relationship started out based on sneakiness and adultery and lies? Count on never trusting each other again. I have a friend living this very drama as we speak... they left their spouses for each other, and guess what? Neither trusts the other. They KNOW first hand how their spouse will lie and sneak around, and will always wonder what "I have to work late" really means. They don't trust each other and never will. It's constant misery 365 days a year for them, and a nuisance for everyone around them because they can't even have dinner with a friend without texting each OTHER nonstop.
- Your kids will have the stigma of being from a divorced home. I had one friend tell me she "wanted to shelter [her kid] from all that" and thus, her kid didn't get to come over and play. Then, every time your kid doesn't get invited over, or gets turned down for a sleepover invitation, you'll wonder... is it because I'm divorced?
- Your kids will cry. Did I mention this? It doesn't matter if dad screamed at them every single day, they will cry when he leaves. The grief will hit them at odd times. You'll be tucking them into bed after a long, weary day, and the floodgates will open and your kids will cry and cry because they miss daddy. My eyes are welling up with tears as I type this, and it's been three years ago. It never gets easy to inflict this pain upon your children.
- You will have zero control over what your kids eat, or who they spend the night with, or whether they stay up until 2am or whether they're buckled into a car seat or not when they're at his house. And there's not a thing you can do about it. Then you're the mean parent who makes your kids eat vegetables and take their vitamins while he sends pre-packaged junk with them for lunch. You're the mean one who makes them go to bed on time when it's a free-for-all at his house. YOU will be the mean one. All of the time. And it's no fun.
- You might not get to talk to your kids at all when they're with him. He MIGHT just take them for the entire week of Thanksgiving and not let them talk to you one. single. time. the ENTIRE week. Ask me how I know this. Ask me how painful it is, when you've never been away from your kids for more than a weekend. You think he's above that? File for divorce and see what happens. You have NO idea the depths of meanness he will sink to.
- Your kids will be treated as pawns by an ex-spouse who only wants to hurt YOU. Your kids will suffer and there's not a thing you can do about it.
- Your kids will miss birthday parties, school carnivals, and anything else that falls on his weekend, and there's not a thing you can do about it.
I've gone to counseling for three years because of it. I've finally come to terms with it. I did everything I could to avoid divorce, and divorce was a last resort. I've come to accept that our current boat was the result of someone else's bad choices. I've accepted that in my case, filing for divorce was the right thing to do because I had clear reasons from the Bible to NOT be married to this man any longer. But I'm still going to counseling three years later...
If that tells you ANYTHING about what a life-shattering thing it was for me.
And, of course, my kids.
Just think about what you're about to do.
It's not the pot of gold that you think. Because I'm your friend and I love you, I'm begging you not to do it, and praying God changes your heart. And also? Praying your boyfriend dumps you. It's for your own good (and your kids).